María Alejandrina Coates

Through a year-long residency hosted by SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre), curator María Alejandrina Coates will research and design a program for BIPOC artists working at the interstices of computer programming, art, and activism. Based on Tania Bruguera’s manifesto on ‘Arte Útil (Useful Art), which proposes a genre of useful art that has an application grounded in functionality within society and applies ‘usefulness’ as a system of interpretation[1], this initiative will depart from the traditional engagements between art and networked systems found in the genres of net art and post-internet art to examine both the degree of usefulness in art-making and in digital applications, as well as the historical inequalities that determine the capacities of BIPOC people to use and program with digital technologies.

While the markets flood with so-called smart devices known as the “Internet of Things”, usefulness is determined for us through standard protocols and algorithms in cheap, pre-programmed devices mediated by screens that harvest our data. Now that ubiquitous and utilitarian objects are animated with connectivity within a capitalist paradigm, the question of use becomes the central tenet of criticality and subversion. How can artists begin to reclaim and reposition the use of these objects/images as a form of counter-culture?

This research program will invite artists to consider the architectural imperatives of software, applications and devices that shape our culture and economy through educational workshops and commissions, with a particular focus on building capacity in the use of data by BIPOC artists to produce media-based works.

María Alejandrina Coates is a Uruguayan-born, Ontario-based media arts curator. Her research interests encompass technology, feminism and socially engaged art practices. Her curated exhibitions include Terraforming, presented by the South Asian Visual Arts Centre and Trinity Square Video (Toronto); Voz-a-Voz at YYZ Artists’ Outlet (Toronto); and Feelings, presented as part of the aluCine Latin Film and Media Arts Festival (Toronto). Coates received a bachelor’s degree from the University of British Columbia and a master’s degree in Art History and Curatorial Studies from York University (Toronto). She was previously held the position of Curator at e-fagia organization and is currently the Development Manager for the Pinnguaq Association.

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